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25
Sep 02
Wed

The Prince

No doubt you’ve all heard of the term “Machiavellian”, after Niccolo Machiavelli, whose political worldview has often been summed up as “let the ends justify the means”. His most famous work was called The Prince, which is essentially a political guidebook on how a monarch should rule and prosper. Machiavelli presented the book in the early 16th century to his liege, Lorenzo de Medici. For a God fearing man (his discussion on ecclesiastical principalities includes this line: “But as they are sustained by higher powers which the human mind cannot comprehend, I shall not argue about them; they are exalted and maintained by God, and so only a rash and presumptuous man would take it on himself to discuss them.”) he doesn’t hesitate to assert, “But if once the [enemy] has been vanquished and broken in battle so that he cannot raise new armies, there is nothing to worry about except the ruler’s family. When that has been wiped out there is no one left to fear…”

It’s an intriguing book, and Machiavelli certainly has a gift for rhetoric. Although this world has a dwindling supply of monarchs with any real power, and anyone trying to annex a neighbouring state will have to deal with the US, I’m sure there are many parallels that can be drawn in the corporate world. You just have to translate the title to “The CEO” and you’re set. Finally, here are Machiavelli’s parting words from the chapter “How far human affairs are governed by fortune, and how fortune can be opposed”:

I conclude, therefore, that as fortune is changeable whereas men are obstinate in their ways, men prosper so long as fortune and policy are in accord, and when there is a clash they fail. I hold strongly to this: that it is better to be impetutous than circumspect; because fortune is a woman and if she is to be submissive it is necessary to beat and coerce her. Experience shows that she is more often subdued by men who do this than by those who act coldly. Always, being a woman, she favours young men, because they are less circumspect and more ardent, and because they command her with greater audacity.